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Docklands Light Railway extension fatality 'an accident'

An inquest into the fatal incident on the Docklands Light Railway extension, which sparked an industry-wide review of quick-hitch safety, has returned a verdict of accidental death.

Carpenter Henry Sheridan, 58, from Luton, was working on an extension to the West Ham station platform in December, 2008, when the bucket of a JCB excavator became detached and fell onto his head, killing him instantly.

Lawyer for the Sheridan family, Helen Clifford, from Luton-based law firm Pictons, said: “The family is disappointed with the verdict but understands that on the basis of the evidence which was before the court there could be no other finding.

“I will now be pursuing the civil claim on behalf of Mrs Sheridan.”

Mr Sheridan was employed by Lorclon Limited and the plant was supplied by Flannery. The main contractor at the site is Skanska GrantRail Joint Venture.

All three companies were legally represented at the inquest, as was the driver of the excavator, Patrick Finn. But Mr Finn did not give evidence and the banksman, Krasimir Zarev, failed to attend despite being summonsed.

The jury at Walthamstow Coroners’ Court was told, however, that the appropriate checks to ensure that the bucket was properly fitted had not been carried out.

Following the high-profile incident, the Strategic Forum established a dedicated quick hitch safety group to examine the machinery used on diggers to switch buckets automatically.

Several major contractors, including Bovis Lend Lease and Skanska, also announced bans on semi-automatic and single-pin fully-automatic excavator quick hitches.

The Office of Rail Regulation is now able to complete its investigation into Mr Sheridan’s death, following which it may lodge prosecutions against any of the companies or individuals involved.

The findings of the ORR investigation are expected within three months.